One of New York City’s most influential restaurants is about to reopen after being closed for an entire year. At the helm, one of the nation’s most influential restaurateurs: Danny Meyer, Shake Shack founder and no-tipping pioneer.
Long before there were Chicken Shacks and crinkle fries, there was Union Square Cafe. Meyer was just 27 years old when it opened in 1985, and it would form the foundation of his restaurant empire (now known as Union Square Hospitality Group and including restaurants such as Union Square spin-off Gramercy Tavern and Roman-style pizzeria Marta).
Union Square Cafe was one of the first NYC restaurants to begin utilizing the city’s Greenmarket, foretelling the local-and-seasonal ethos that’s become ubiquitous far and wide. It’s also credited with popularizing a kinder, gentler, totally unpretentious service style that wasn’t typical at the city’s higher-end restaurants in those days.
The decision to move Union Square Cafe from its original location after nearly three decades was due to a massive rent hike. It shuttered at the end of 2015, and the new space, just a couple blocks away, is more than three times bigger.
As Eater NY reports, “The team wanted to evoke feelings of warmth and familiarity, while building a space that offered more ways to hang out” — meaning there’s now two bars, as well as private and semi-private dining rooms and a grab-and-go cafe next door called Daily Provisions. The dining room will definitely feel like home to anyone who frequented the original, with similar decor from the chairs and the tablecloths to the white and ivy green paint colors.
The famously warm service will no doubt remain intact, with one noteworthy addition: Front-of-house managers and sommeliers will now be outfitted with Apple Watches. A partnership between USHG and Resy, the gadgets will enable staffers to keep better tabs on their diners, sending them notifications when, say, a new table is seated or the kitchen runs out of a particular menu item.
The food from executive chef Carmen Quagliata will remain familiar, too, with updated versions of classic dishes like steak tartare, scallops, and gnocchi, though there are plenty of updates being made there too: There’s now an in-house bakery, for instance, and new menu items like a braised lamb shank with salsa verde.
The new USC hasn’t yet revealed an official opening date, but it’s slated to open its doors sometime next week.